Swarathma Open Up About Their New Album – Raah E Fakira, Raising Awareness Through Music And Signature Sound
Sidhantha Jain · December 06, 2018 · 5 Minute Read
Swarathma, a Bengaluru based band that has redefined folk-rock in India, recently released their third full-length studio album titled Raah E Fakira. The heartfelt lyrics and fresh instrumentals on each of the nine tracks bring back their original sound in the most innovative way possible.
In an exclusive conversation with OnRecord, Jishnu Dasgupta, the bass guitarist, and vocalist of Swarathma disclosed the meaning behind each song on their new album, approach towards music and social responsibility as artists.
What was the inspiration behind the whole album Raah E Fakira?
It just was an album whose time had come. Six years is a long time between two albums, but we had our journey as a band filled with ups and downs. The good thing is that the music kept coming in that time, and Raah E Fakira is a collection of songs that we wrote over this time that we went through these experiences together. Unlike our previous albums, this one is more inward-looking than outward. There are songs that are more about personal journeys than a response to issues or concerns in the society that we are more known for.
A graphic comic was introduced to provide the fans with a “touch” to the album. From where did the idea pop up and how did the final product pan out?
There are stories in each of our songs. Our songs are a way for us to share those stories with the world. On this album, we decided to collaborate with artists who also tell stories – graphic comics! In the absence of album artwork (since there are no CDs) we decided to put out graphic interpretations of our songs, in collaboration with a talented bunch of artists from Kolkata called Ghost Animation Collective. They’ve created graphic short stories inspired by each song, which will be brought out as an anthology. We’ve always been very visual in our approach to music with videos, onstage costumes etc. This is a way for us to carry that visual element forward. It is a good way to look at digitization – it may seem like everything is fleeting and temporary, but our belief is that good art stays.
Your lyrics are socially sensitive, fearless and colloquial; what was the ideology behind the production of each track on Raah E Fakira? How do the members maintain the balance of being creative and raising concerns over such serious issues?
I’ll answer the second part first: being creative and raising concerns over issues isn’t mutually exclusive and doesn’t need a balance. The only filter we use is to NOT be preachy, or pretend as if we know the answers because we don’t. All that we say about issues we speak of is about the way we feel.
Each track has had its own journey. For example, Raah E Fakira came out of a 4-chord jam that really felt good instantly. We composed that song in a matter of hours, but the lyric writing and production took a longer time. We wanted this song to be about finding an inner path, one that is of the saint that lives in all of us. There is a free-spiritedness in the song, that echoes the way of that saint.
“Aasman ki Dukaan“ is about the commercialization of faith and how there is a middleman waiting to make a quick buck off your faith.
“Kaash“ is a song about regret, the first time that Jishnu has sung lead vocals on a track. It is about making friends with regret, instead of living at loggerheads with it.
“Jiya Lagaye“ is a song about letting go of the constant calculations in social relationships and living more in the moment than in the future.
“Sangat ki Rangat“ is a collaboration with the amazing Amit Kilam of Indian Ocean. We’ve worked with him as a producer on our first album and it felt great to have him with us as a collaborator. He brought in his signature style into a song that is about coming together no matter how different you are.
“Jangama“ is the only Kannada song on the album – it is about the many shades and colours of the common man.
“Mazloom“ is one of the oldest songs on the album – written in 2008, recorded in 2012 but released only now. It is a song about transgenders, and how we perceive their lives to be.
“Manwa“ is a song about telling your heart to take heart when things don’t go your way.
When it comes to production, it is important to acknowledge how much the band members have grown since the previous album. This whole album was produced in-house at Varun’s studio called The Red Music Box, with vocals being recorded by Vasu at his own home studio. The album was recorded and mixed by Varun himself.
Does Swarathma see it as a responsibility to raise awareness through their music, given the band’s presence in the industry?
There is no response we feel on ourselves to raise awareness. It is only an expression of what we feel as humans, citizens, people of the world. That said, the only thing that enables us to keep coming up with the material of this nature is being open to and vulnerable to the world. The way the world makes us feel comes out in our songs.
As per the data available to Saavn, the listeners of Swarathma are spread across all age groups. What according to the band is relevant to make an impatient young listener stick one piece of content when there’s too much to consume in the age of the internet? At the same time, the older generation is a sucker for soulful content. What is absolutely necessary to kill two birds with the same stone in this case?
In all honesty, relevance for one isn’t relevance for another. While motifs and repeated melodic phrases please one kind of listener, the same doesn’t always necessarily please another. What is more important in my view is the honesty that goes into making music that one truly feels the need to express because he/she is moved by it to say so and that’s exactly what we do. Language, genre, tonality/timbre of music just happens to be the ornamentation used to decorate the song in order to reach out to the listener, only to enable the experience to feel more personal. I don’t believe there is a formula to kill two birds with one stone; that in my humble opinion is where music became a strategy and not an honest expression.
Even though all the songs are different in their peculiar way but are similar in a manner that they’re true to their folk-rock roots.
How would the band describe their signature sound to someone who hasn’t ever heard their music?
The band consists of members who have become musicians by listening to various kinds of music over the years or our upbringing and every one brings the same to the table when a song is being written. While there are songs which could have more of certain genre based influence in a particular song and less of it in another, they are at the end of the day Indian in nature and it will remain to be so as long it comes from our hearts because that’s what we all are.
From a music business or sales perspective, we have been categorized as Indian folk rock and we have no qualms about it. Additionally, I believe a signature sound is when something is done repeatedly which pretty much starts describing us in one way but we’ve never seen ourselves that way and we have always worked on pushing our boundaries with each body of work we’ve put out. So I wouldn’t even go to the extent of categorizing ourselves or our music because who knows, we may not sound like that a few years from now.
Stream Swarathma’s latest album, Raah E Fakira on JioSaavn.